Saturday, 13 November 2010

San Francisco - Burger Madness

Two burgers, two ways, one day... Only in California

No trip to the West Coast is complete without worshiping at the altar of In-n-Out. Possibly the finest burger I've ever had. I have a slight moment of anxiety every time that it's not going to live up to the memories, and every time I've breathed a huge, meaty sigh of relief. The menu is simple. Burgers, fries and drinks. They have a much famed 'secret' menu, but essentially it boils down to combinations and numbers of patties and cheese slices. There's also the patented 'animal style' fries and burgers, slathered in onion, cheese and mustard and worthy of poetry. The fries are a little floury but not too greasy or doused in salt. The patty is meaty, thin and wonderful. Served in a white sponge dough bun, not too much taste, but that goes some way to soaking up the sauces. If I was complaining, I'd say that there was little too much onion for me but with the slice of tomato and piles of lettuce, it's certainly enough to count for a portion a day.

Rule number 1 when in the States on your own. Hit a bar, sit at the bar, talk to people. It's not as sleazy or try hard as it is in England, and you'll generally find out where the locals go. Any decent barkeep is guaranteed to give you a decent recommendation and you'll end up round the corner, having the time of your life, in the oddest of little dives. Or at least, that's the plan...Stuck in shopping central Union Square on a Sunday night, I had to try and pick my way through the tourist options. The slightly ditzy girl in Lefty O'Doulls (baseball themed post work joint with a rank looking carvery) sent me towards either Gold Rush or The Summer Place... The former was ok, but had only a few beers on tap and a post shopping crowd. I later found out from Katie Pie that they had ace live musicians Thursday through Saturday, but it wasn't a goer for me. She redeemed herself with The Summer Place, a proper little dive bar just off the Square and certainly somewhere you wouldn't walk in by choice. A couple of bottles of Anchor Steam (complex but light local brew) and a blast of Nirvana on the stereo and I was convinced I'd found a gem. It's also randomly one of the few places you can still smoke openly in a bar... "owner operated, this is San Francisco, not California" explained the beard next to me. 

From there I headed on to another local recommendation, this one from a different source, Yelp if you're wondering. They took me to Seasons, the lounge bar at the Four Seasons. It couldn't have been a bigger contrast. They do a wonderful Sunday night special, burger and beverage for $20. From the sticky, tacky seats and esoteric tunes of the Summer Place, I slid into the relaxed piano bar style of the Four Seasons lounge. The decor and the crowd were middle aged, generic upper class and slightly turned up at the edges. I wasn't sure I was going to stay until I saw the menu - Ground Kobe, Lincolnshire Poacher cheddar and confit shallots served on a brioche bun with fries - they offer 5 different styles on a Sunday evening, but this was the only one for me, and the only burger I've ever had with a suggested wine, cocktail or beer pairing. It was a done deal..

Slightly dry (but I'm being deliberately picky), and very rich, it was one of the better burgers I've eaten in the States. The Catena Merlot it paired with couldn't cut through the duck fat, and I dare anyone to finish it and still say they're hungry, but it was a satisfying bite. Not an every day option, but a once in a while fine dining burger treat.

Seasons on Urbanspoon
In-N-Out Burger on Urbanspoon

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